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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 January 2008, 13:19 GMT
Black and blue Monday
By Denise Winterman
BBC News Magazine

Jeremy Paxman
Paxman wasn't happy with M&S
It's easy to dismiss those befuddling formulae supposed to identify the most joyful/ hateful/ distrustful (delete as appropriate) day of the year, but yesterday's events suggest disturbing evidence to the contrary.

It was billed as the most depressing day of the year, but Monday worked out rather well for one person at least - psychologist Cliff Arnall.

His mathematical formula for misery had pinpointed January 21 as the worst day of the year, when the only thing on a high was our post-Christmas blues.

Usually the nation takes such calculations with a truck-load of salt. After all there seems to be a formula for everything from the best day to buy a car to the worst day to propose to your partner. Mr Arnall's equations have been dismissed by scientists such as Ben Goldacre, who has described them as "stupid".

But Dr Arnall will be the one chuckling today while the rest of us rake over the effects of a stock market crash, floods, further evidence of rising debt, a tidal wave of timber, even - and no one ever imagined things could get this bad - an attack on Marks & Spencer's pants.

Lacking support

From "gusset anxiety" to almost 80bn being wiped off the value of the UK's leading shares, Monday wasn't just blue - it was downright black.

Those wishing they'd never got out of bed included Sir Stuart Rose, head of M&S. Papers reported that BBC presenter Jeremy Paxman had written to him seeking answers as to why its undies "no longer provided proper support". And Newsnight's grand inquisitor is a man who wants answers, as Michael Howard can confirm.

FORMULA FOR MISERY
Bad weather
Debt
Monotony
Quitting New Year resolutions
Low motivation
Desperate feeling that you need to take action
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith probably wished she'd stayed under the duvet too. Debate over her admission that she would not feel safe walking the streets after dark increased, and she was forced to confess a unhealthy penchant for doner kebabs.

Owner-occupiers were told the value of their homes was plummeting by 120 a day, that's if they still had a house of any value after all the flooding, rain and snow.

Airport battles

Parents, meanwhile, were informed that a flesh-eating strain of MRSA has spread to nurseries, schools and gyms. In case that wasn't bad enough, it's a "super" strain and can eat away at your lungs and kill within hours.

And there was no use trying to get away from all the doom and gloom, there was still travel chaos at Heathrow following last week's crash. A total of 56 flights were cancelled.

As Heathrow was struggling to recover from the effects of last week's crash landing, those of a nervous disposition had further evidence to distrust man's belief in artificial flight - a pilot of a passenger plane was forced to make an emergency landing at City of Derry airport after one of its engines shut down. (Sound familiar?)

Britney Spears
Britney reportedly dumped her British boyfriend
Even something as unremarkable as drinking coffee was elevated to a high risk gamble for women, especially pregnant ones. It will either cause them to miscarry their unborn child or help ward off ovarian cancer.

There were also more money woes for us all, with borrowing continuing to soar to record levels.

But maybe that won't matter as many of us might freeze to death before the bailiffs knock at the door. Apparently more than four million Britons can't afford to pay their electricity and gas bills, according to another report.

And talk about kicking a nation when it's down... news also broke that Britney Spears had dumped her British boyfriend and got a restraining order on him.

Of course, these manifold woes don't necessarily make the worst day of the year - there are 345 more to go before the end of 2008.

In the meantime though, the last word should go to market expert Howard Wheeldon, on last night's 10 O'Clock News. "There's just no good news out there," he said. Clearly.


Below is a selection of your comments.

I'd forgotten yesterday was supposed to be the most depressing day of the year, until reading bbc.co.uk today. Now I know why I was feeling so inexplicably down yesterday. I felt like bursting into tears for no reason - totally unlike me. And yes, that's completely true, even though I didn't know about the "theory". Freaky.
Kitty, Coventry, UK

This makes me feel rather guilty for not having a bad day on Monday. The value of my house may be plummeting but with no intentions of selling in the near future, this blip in the market can surely be ridden out. My money isn't invested in anything even remotely connected to the FTSE or Northern Rock, my mortgage is at a fixed rate for another three years, my children are no longer in school (or my house - a double bonus) and even my boss had the day off on Monday. For once, I am happy to be the exception to the rule.
Anon, Sussex, England

Yesterday (Black/Blue Monday) I felt unable to shake that 'Desperate feeling that you need to take action' but I couldn't pin point what I wanted to take action against. When I arrived home from work I turned on the news and saw that it was supposedly the worst day of the year. I actually felt happy when I saw this. It meant that I wasn't alone and that my depressed mood had a source. I took my boyfriend and sister for a Chinese and instantly felt better. Anyone know when the happiest day of the year is going to be?
Cat, Belfast

January 21st is my birthday, and, unaware of these bleak predictions, I had a wonderful day.
Deborah-Louise Grant, London, England

We welcomed the first member of the next generation of our family to the world yesterday (21st January). At 8lbs 5oz a healthy baby boy, Rhys Daniel made sure this was the happiest day of 2008 for a small bunch of people!
Hannah, Cardiff

I knew that yesterday was meant to be the most depressing day of the year, but I felt oddly cheerful. I have money worries the rest of the year, along with all the other malaise' listed, but I felt ready to take on the new year with gusto. Is this statistic true of only the UK or does it affect the rest of the world too?
Heather, Willenhall

I got caught in torrential rain only to find my local had increased the Guinness prices. Surely a sign of impending recession. After a few pints, I forgot about my soggy feet and all of life's worries. Tomorrow is payday, anything could happen.
Keyur, Southsea

Not realising how depressing yesterday was supposed to be, I quit smoking and so was quite happy with myself. But I'm guessing my depressing day of the year won't be too far off!
Rachel, Dublin




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